Hiring an SEO consultant can be really impactful for your business. Visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) can make or break a business. At best, your SEO strategy and efforts can launch your business into the next level of success. At worst you'll burn cash and wind up no better or even worse than when you started. Add to that the fact that hiring SEO expertise can be an onerous task—where do you start?
One of the first questions that come to mind is: what are you trying to achieve?
Get on the first page of Google
Ok, but why?
More traffic to my site
Ok, but why? What happens when this magical boatload of traffic arrives at your site? Does it get turned into revenue? Or will it just take down your web server?
SEO is like any paid advertising campaign, in that you'll benefit from having clear objectives. The ROI curve might be different for SEO initiatives vs paid, but there is absolutely a cost either way. You'll want to quantify your budget and the return you get on it, so you can optimize your investment.
Some example use cases for SEO
- Ecommerce—I get good margins on my Brand Y Widgets. I want to increase my monthly sales of Brand Y Widgets by 50%. In doing so I stand to increase revenue by $4000/mo and therefore am willing to spend $10k to do it, because if we meet those targets I'll be net positive this quarter. I can track ROI by attributing sales of Brand Y Widgets to traffic acquired from my SEO efforts. As long as the ROI is net positive, I can continue to invest in these efforts each quarter. (Note, this is a contrived example in part because it's probably better suited for a paid campaign.)
- Services business—I get approximately 4% conversion rate on leads that come in through my website contact form. On average each paid customer is worth $1k so each lead is worth $40, give or take. I want to increase the number of leads I get each month by 50, which would allow me to hire another provider. Since 50 leads are collectively worth $2000, I'm willing to spend $2000 right now to get there. I can't keep spending because the service costs me money to provide. Hopefully I can identify a strategy that, if successful, will provide long-term cumulative benefit for a one-time investment, or at least an investment that can diminish over time.
Identifying something like the above for your use case, can put you in a better position to adopt the right SEO strategy and hire the right consultant. (Or maybe no/very little SEO work and just go for paid.) Personally, I've had occassion to work with SEO consultants with varying skills and expertise, which we'll go into below. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, and in reality every consultant possesses a mixture of these skills, on a spectrum of quality, but for now let's pretend that skills/expertise can be put into these boxes:
Some examples of SEO consulting
WP SEO Guru
This type of work might be considered as commoditized, in that you can search for
WP SEO on Fivrr and get results that literally cost $5. Typically this work involves installing a Wordpress Plugin or ten, and configuring them to make the most of your on-page SEO—if your site is on Wordpress. A consultant who possesses the skill to optimize on-page SEO regardless of your site's platform, is likely more valuable and will be able to deliver other benefits over and above plugin configuration.
Fivrr results for this category come at a higher range, mostly over $100 but sometimes over $1k. This can be for good reason—a very good Backlink Builder might have high-value inroads to high-profile sites, from which they can get backlinks to your site. They might also be able to advise on strategies that take advantage of specific opportunities to gain backlinks, like during gifting seasons, or getting timely reviews on your products (or those you carry in your store).
This can be a double-edged sword though. Backlink spamming can do more harm than good. You'll want to vett your prospective SEO provider with care.
Structured Content Wizard
Experts in this area can be very valuable. They can steer your content towards being the best and most structured data for search engines—and not only Google. They typically provide content for each of your pages' SEO Title, Description, keywords, and image captions, potentially along with recommendations for structured data tags and/or JSON-LD schema. They can also provide direction on what content to actually write about and publish on your site. Note: one of these things in isolation do not a Structured Content Wizard make. A true expert in this realm will bring the whole gamut and more.
Ideally you can find someone who can provide solid recommendations on all of the above, but also which one of the above is the best approach for right now, along with a roadmap of what to do over the next quarter and year. This type of SEO expert would be able to strategize objectives and build a plan for how to get your domain to the next level. Perhaps most importantly they would recommend specific actions and initiatives to focus on now, tomorrow, next week, etc. These folks know that trying to boil the ocean is akin to planned failure, and they will help narrow your efforts on the most effective strategy.
Hopefully this was helpful—I've had occasion to type out something similar to colleagues and/or clients, and figured it might be useful for someone like you :)